I attended the talk on campus with Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi on Thursday, one of a series of events hosted by the Bob Graham Center here at UF. If you haven’t looked into it, the center has a video archive on its site, and it has brought in a number of interesting and important Florida political figures.
Although Bondi’s comments focused mostly on her record as attorney general, she also fielded questions about how she managed to become attorney general, her time as a student at UF and her time in law school. And it is here, rather than her discussion of her views on current policies, that most exemplified the Rick Scott administration’s disconnect with the average young Floridian.
“When I was in college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” she said. “I wasn’t even sure I wanted to practice law … When I was in law school, I did a certified legal internship at the state attorney’s office, and my dad conspired with Bill James, who was the state attorney at the time because my dad was so worried I didn’t want to practice law. And so I did this internship at the state attorney’s office, and when you’re certified, you can try jury trials when you’re in law school, so I had four jury trials when I was in law school. Never wanted to do anything else.”
In what was apparently meant to be an effort to connect with those of us students who aren’t sure what direction we want to go post-graduation, she instead told a story of the well-connected being afforded valuable opportunities in spite of a lack of drive to earn them.
An earlier claim in the evening of “I don’t think I’ve ever made a resume in my life” is the type of situation that students from modest means will likely never encounter. We cannot get a firsthand preview of life in a high-profile profession before deciding to work for it, and we will probably not get a job handed to us once we graduate without needing to apply.
And indeed, her idealistic statement of “It’s not always about the money, I’ll tell you that — it’s about doing what you love. And if you do what you love, it all works out in the end,” rings hollow for those of us who cannot fall back on familial connections. For most of us currently at UF, there is no guarantee of everything working out in the end, whether we pursue what we love or not.
Unfortunately, too many politicians like Pam Bondi make up the Republican Party that runs the executive and legislative branches of this state. Is it any surprise that they’ve pushed for cuts in the type of programs that would help underprivileged Florida students succeed, when they themselves have no conception of what it’s like to be underprivileged — or, in Bondi’s case, even regular-privileged?
Furthermore, the Republican Party in this state isn’t interested in learning these things from us, as is obvious from the Scott administration’s move this past week to block the city’s request to place an early voting site on campus. We are not its constituency, and the administration is trying its best to keep us from being part of the political process because of it.
Lucky for us, we’re already used to working harder for the same opportunities, and voting will be just one more thing.
[Matt Schneider is a UF engineering senior. A version of this column ran on page 7 on 2/17/2014 under the headline "Bondi’s talk shows Republican disconnect"]